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Louis Zamperini, War Hero, Olympian Dies at 97

An Olympic distance runner and World War II veteran who survived 47 days on a raft in the Pacific after his bomber crashed, then endured two years in Japanese prison camps, has died. Louis Zamperini was 97.

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Zamperini enlisted in the Army before Pearl Harbor and was a pilot in World War II. He and his crew were searching for a downed B-25 when their plane crashed into the Pacific, killing eight of the 11 men.

Before joining the military, Zamperini was a runner at the University of Southern California. He ran in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, placing eighth in the mile.

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His story was told in "Unbroken," Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 best-seller, and is the subject of an Angelina Jolie-directed film by the same name being released in December.

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Angelina Jolie said in a statement on Thursday, "It is a loss impossible to describe. We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him. We will miss him terribly."

Universal Pictures studio spokesman Michael Moses says Zamperini died Wednesday.

NBC News' Tom Brokaw remembers Louis Zamperini tonight on NBC Nightly News.

Ronnie Polidoro and The Associated Press contributed to this report.